A flash card reading “help” sat in a pile of dust swept up during summer cleaning at Richmond's George Mason Elementary School.

By Glen Sturtevant and Paul Goldman

On Election Day, November 7, Richmonders will have the unprecedented opportunity to directly cast a ballot for a bipartisan education initiative focused on modernizing our city schools. It is widely understood that we are in a crisis as it relates to the condition of our school infrastructure. It has been reported in the Times-Dispatch that teachers are forced to wear masks as they teach, ceilings crumble around children as they sit in class, and bathrooms are in horrible disrepair. These are buildings that have been obsolete for generations. Something must be done, and done now.

Education can be the great equalizer, but Richmond’s children cannot be expected to learn in such deplorable conditions. These dilapidated facilities are a hazard to students, teachers, and staff, and send a clear message that education is not a top priority. Necessary improvements are needed and will send an entirely different message to the children, the teachers, and the public.

This summer, dozens of citizens — spurred by the Richmond Crusade for Voters, the Sierra Club and others — braved 100-degree temperatures to gather signatures to put an end to the past six decades of government inaction. A record number of Richmonders — 15,000 — personally signed the petitions needed to get the school modernization initiative on the ballot. It should be crystal clear to all elected city officials that the citizens are tired of talk and want action. The charter change is very simple. It asks the mayor, after consulting with the City Council and the School Board, along with allowing for public input, to develop a fully funded school modernization plan for consideration within six months of the charter change becoming effective.

This is common sense: You can’t solve a problem without a plan to fix it.

Moreover, in developing this plan, the mayor must first consider creative cost savings and other fiscally responsible financing options, not merely propose heaping massive new taxes on citizens, who are already paying some of the highest local taxes in the state. This initiative simply asks the mayor to consider all demands on public funds, and prioritize modernization of schools. It is commonsense, good government.

Finally, the proposed charter change guarantees an honest, open process where we can get a community consensus on how best to fix this intolerable situation. By voting “yes” for the school modernization initiative, Richmonders can communicate their desire for fixing that which is clearly broken. We can give our local elected officials a mandate to put school modernization ahead of anything else that they do. We want a comprehensive plan that fixes our schools in a fiscally responsible manner. We care about the children and the environment in which they are learning and growing. We want to give them an opportunity to live the American Dream.

We ask you to vote “yes” for the bipartisan School Modernization Charter Change on Election Day. Generations of children have waited long enough.

Receive daily news emails sent directly to your email inbox

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Republican Glen Sturtevant represents the 10th District in the Senate of Virginia. Contact him at

Democrat Paul Goldman drafted federal legislation to help modernize Richmond’s schools. Contact him at

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.